Sascha Janson is an underwater photographer and videographer from Germany who currently lives and works on the Laamu Atoll of the Maldives. His underwater photography is a testament to the kaleidoscopic beauty of our oceans, which he captures with great skill. From manta rays to nudibranchs, his photographs explore the immense variety of shapes and colors that occur in nature. His photography is used by marine foundations and NGO’s, showcasing the role of the artist/activist in the conservation movement.
1. How did you begin your journey as an underwater photographer?
I never planned any of it! I just went on a four-week holiday to Thailand, fell in love with diving and decided that I wanted to become an underwater videographer. Since early childhood, I’ve had an affinity for electrical and technical objects, and I later went on to train as an industrial electrician. As a result, servicing and maintaining complex underwater camera gear came very naturally to me. This helped me on my journey, especially while living and working in very remote parts of the world.
I get an amazing sense of satisfaction when I am able to successfully capture the essence of an underwater animal on video and can share it with the world. There is so much beauty that is still undiscovered in the oceans and underwater videography has given me the rare privilege of witnessing it firsthand.
2. For some artists, their process begins with going to a studio. For you, it requires putting on scuba diving gear so you can get below the surface of the water. How does your creative process unfold?
Before the dive, I carefully set up and check my camera equipment to make sure everything is sealed and ready to go. Mistakes with this first step can be extremely costly, so it’s essential to do this correctly. As soon as I descend, I’m on the lookout for opportunities, especially for recording interesting behavior. It doesn’t have to be a rare creature, sometimes even a “common” sea creature can dazzle us with fascinating behavior. Sometimes strong currents or restrictions imposed by the topography and diving safety limits make things challenging and I need to go back and try again for certain scenes. After the dive, I review my footage, select my favorite scenes and then pick the music for the video. Then I slot the scenes according to how they fit best in terms of flow and congruity with the music.
3. You have photographed huge animals from sharks and manta rays to tiny creatures living in the sand. Do you decide your subjects in the moment or does each shot require pre-planning?
It does require a bit of planning. I have to decide which lens I will use on each dive since I cannot change lenses underwater. I often have a specific shot in mind, but frequently the situation won’t allow for it and I will have to be a little bit more spontaneous. It’s not a zoo down there, so I never really know what’s going to happen.
4. How are you able to come into such close proximity to wild animals? Do you feel you are able to connect with the animal as you photograph it?
For most animal encounters it’s just pure luck. With some animals, I can anticipate what is going to happen and yes, sometimes I feel like I can connect with them. Different animals behave in different ways. Some animals are very tolerant or seemingly even unaware of my presence. Animals such as manta rays are sometimes curious and will approach me, and others, such as sharks, are very skittish and take a lot of luck and patience to capture on film.
5. How do you understand the role of underwater photographers in light of the threats our oceans are facing? Have your responsibilities changed?
I think we have a responsibility to act as “Ocean Ambassadors.” This includes educating divers and non-divers about the threats of overfishing, pollution, shark finning, bycatch, etc. For photographers, our role is to capture the underwater world at its best and foster an appreciation for it. This is essential for people to understand why we want to protect it. You only protect what you love!
6. Finally, if you had a call to artists and activists, in this time of impending climate crisis, what would it be?
I have spent eight months of my life underwater and still feel very privileged for the chance to experience this world. I never take diving for granted and am always looking forward to the next one! My call to artists would be to appreciate the nature we have and to use your art to inspire others to respect and protect it.
To learn more about Sascha Janson’s work check out his links below!
Author: Carola Dixon
Editor: Dena Silver